Mr Hitler Missed Me: Great escape kicks off Shipston author's extraordinary autobiography

When David Gunn set out to write an autobiography, he was determined it was not going to be run-of-the-mill.

Lieutenant David Gunn RN carrying out preflight checks in a Seahawk fighter ground attack aircraft in the Mediterranean in 1958.
Lieutenant David Gunn RN carrying out preflight checks in a Seahawk fighter ground attack aircraft in the Mediterranean in 1958.

The decision to call it, Mr Hitler Missed Me, hints at this new release being a little different – and that becomes certain when you discover the first of two other books he’s written was in 1964, Alphonse the Story of a Seafaring Skunk.

In Mr Gunn’s own words to the Banbury Guardian this week, he said: of his new work: “I have packed a lot of life into it. Some autobiographies can be a bit self-promoting but I’ve tried to make people giggle.”

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The involvement of Hitler shows there is substance as well as that irresistible humour and the key moment came in 1941 in Plymouth.

David Gunn in the cockpit of his Seahawk having landed back on HMS Eagle while providing fighter cover to the Army going into Jordan in 1958.

"We were in the worst of the blitz of Plymouth but my mother moved us and brought me up in the Cotswolds to a farm at Shipton Oliffe.

"I’m a fourth generation sailor and this was the first time we had lived outside a port town.”

David loved life there but it had one unexpected consequence when his father got the chance to visit: “I spoke with a broad Gloucestershire accent and he couldn’t understand me.”

His father had been at sea in the First World War – the subject of David’s second book, 2013’s Sailor in the Desert – and in the Second World War he commanded the cruiser Achilles. But having returned home and taken up a job as a duty captain at the Admiralty, he answered one of the war’s key phone calls – from Churchill to check on the weather ahead of D-Day.

With his father back in this country the family had moved to Ashford in Kent and David went to boarding school.

At 13 he joined the navy and went to the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. When asked whether that early love of farming nearly held sway, his response was pragmatic: “I so loved it but I didn’t have farm."

He went on to serve 17 years, including as a Fleet Air Arm pilot – and write that first book about the unofficial mascot on the destroyer HMS Saintes.

A return to civvy street is so often a challenge but for David, as the book tells, the transition was seamless, finishing leaving the navy on a Friday and starting work as a TV announcer for Southern TV on the Monday.

The years since then have seen plenty of variety, buying a problematic old farmhouse inspired him to set up a timber preservation business and having sold that, he concentrated on working as an independent PR.

But when we say variety there is much more - we’re not going to give away the details but look out for encounters with spies in war and peace.

Divorced 17 years ago and living out past Burford, it was love that subsequently brought him to Shipston but not in any straightforward way. On a world tour he met a couple on a trip down the Mekong River, they invited him to a dinner party where he met Caroline from Shipston – and the rest is history.

But to get the full history, you need to get the book – out now from Helion Books at Warwick, available at: